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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Maybe it's the e-company I keep, a bunch of bleeding heart lefties with progressive politics, or this current climate of discontent running hot with the Occupy movement, but it seems like Facebook is inundated these days with cyber fist pounding and moral outrage over sins committed by the corrupt corporate oligarchy.  Even more than usual.  And the FB is always a hotbed of reactionary knee-jerking activity.  Don't misunderstand.  I am no fan of big business; the money-grubbing, -thieving bastards who latch on like succubi and syphon off my money can suck my balls.  (As if I needed to be reminded of the insurance racket, my basement walls are leaking.  Forget that I pay a hefty premium.  Doesn't matter.  Because A.) insurance doesn't cover it, and B.) even if they did, my premiums would go up, thus negating any savings.  What the fuck do I have insurance for if it doesn't cover shit like this?  Is there a bigger racket than the cocksucking insurance industry?  Only health care and all the others, brother.)

Still, it's the outrage that stands out to me, the shock of it all.  As if this is somehow news that people (and corporations are run by people) wouldn't do damn near anything to make an extra buck.  Sure, that's a simplistic approach, Business for Dummies, a complicated issue cut into bite-size Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-like pieces for mass consumption.  I am not a business major.  My wife is a business major. But not the bad kind.  She's going to Mills, which promotes progressive, green, and sustainable business practices.  Don't understand what any of those things mean, even though she's tried to explain them to me many times.  I am the epitome of one-track.

Each morning, after I change and feed the kid, I plug in, check correspondence and start the self-promoting wheels, plugging my work on the various social networks. There is always some new egregious offense that has my e-brothers and -sisters up in arms.  Lately, it's been all about Monsanto.

Until two months ago, when I learned how to play Son Volt's "Methamphetamine," I had never heard of Monsanto.  In fact, when I was learning the lyrics, I mistakenly took the line "It's either working these gauges for Monsanto / or a bar-back job for the casino" to mean the narrator was working for some guy named Monsanto. Again.  One track.  But in my defense, how much shit can we really fit in our heads?  I mean, if I consciously acknowledged Monsanto, I might have to lose the answer to who were the three Yankees who came to bat when they resumed the "pine tar game" in 1983*.  And if I did that, I might lose should they ever ask the question at Sports Trivia night at the local pub.  Even though I don't drink.  Or go to pubs.

(* Mattingly, Smalley, Gamble.  Knowing this was a lot more impressive before Google.  I retained that info for 30 fucking years.  Now all you need is a goddamn search engine.)

I am very selective in my memory, and I push out the things that can't help me in my daily life.  Monsanto, the genetically altered food corporation and its nefarious plans to poison the American public for profit?  Not as important as a good Son Volt tune.

Obviously that's not true.  I mean, this is a big deal.  I think.  I only get what everyone's so pissed about for less than two months, but it seems pretty fucked.

So in case you are like me and live under a self-imposed rock, here is the latest cause de FB:

Whole Foods Market Caves to Monsanto

WholeFoodsMarketAfter 12 years of battling to stop Monsanto's genetically-engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's organic farmland, the biggest retailers of "natural" and "organic" foods in the U.S., including Whole Foods Market (WFM), Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm, have agreed to stop opposing mass commercialization of GE crops, like Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa. In exchange for dropping their opposition, WFM has asked for "compensation" to be paid to organic farmers for "any losses related to the contamination of his crop." Under current laws, Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not subject to any pre-market safety testing or labeling. WFM is abandoning its fight with biotech companies in part because two thirds of the products they sell are not certified organic anyway, but are really conventional, chemical-intensive and foods that may contain GMOs and that they market as "natural" despite this. Most consumers don't know the difference between "natural" and "certified organic" products. "Natural" products can come from crops and animals fed nutrients containing GMOs. "Certified Organic" products are GMO-free. WFM and their main distributor, United Natural Foods, maximize profits by selling products labeled "natural" at premium organic prices.  (A typographical error in the second sentence of this story was subsequently corrected.  We regret this minor error.)

My perspective might be skewed, since I live in Berkeley (or close enough), a city divided in two: those who take yoga, and those who teach it, everyone draped in rainbow flags and Birkenstocks, chomping on kale chips and pot butter; my mother-in-law weeps over my refusal to spend $300 a week on organic groceries.  I don't buy into the organic thing, for the most part.  I don't trust the government.  I don't trust the FDA.  And I don't trust his mythical coalition of Dudley Do Right Organic Farmers who will sacrifice profit for the greater good.  Except when it comes to buying milk for my boy.  The hormones they pump in that shit will give you man boobs.

Most of this recent batch of Monsanto news comes via left-leaning outlets like PR Watch, the Progressive Dieter, Che Guevara's Guavas and Revolution.  OK.  I made that last one up.  But you do have to temper the message.  No different than FOX News reporting on, well, anything.

I am not making light of frankenfoods.  OK.  I am making light of frankenfoods a little bit.  But not because the thought of Dr. Evil pissing on the crops with which I feed my family isn't nauseating.  It's because it reminds me of just how helpless I am.  You can either find a way to laugh or you storm the bastille.

I abused my body for years.  I pumped God-knows-what directly into my bloodstream with reckless abandon, with not the slightest concern for whether I lived, died, or otherwise.  I remember a hot shot I took one morning, and walking out of my apartment and collapsing on the sidewalk, paralyzed, as whatever poison I had just willingly injected into my body caused my temple veins to throb to the point of near aneurism.  And I lay there until the moment passed.  Then I was up and on my way to find my next fix.  Didn't even momentarily entertain the notion of taking a break.  

When I got clean, I tried to make it up to my body.  It took a while, but slowly I began eating more vegetables, exercising more, drinking less soda.  I still willingly sacrifice some degrees of health for vanity's sake, like using non-stick sprays over cooking in olive oil, because I'd rather look good and be dead than be overweight (and alive).  It's my value system.  Don't judge.  

Despite my inherent skepticism re: most organics, I still buy a lot of them.  I won't buy Supermarket meat.  Because it tastes like shit.  I buy from a butcher, and generally grass-fed, hormone free, free range, organic meats.  Which ain't cheap. You are what you eat, and beef should be red, not pale packaged pink.  I want to taste the fresh blood from my cow.

I used to buy meat from Whole Foods.  But I don't anymore.  I sort of hate Whole Foods for its hipster-attracting qualities, and severe overpricing.  I've found other "natural" markets sell the same shit, for far less; all you miss out on is the Whole Foods experience.  Not such a loss.

This afternoon, I saw most of my friends were posting requests to contact the president and complain about FDA forcing Whole Foods to accept Monsanto's evil goods.  Not quite sure that is what is happening, from the limited reading I've done. But I signed the petition anyway.  Monsanto seems like it's run by a bunch of dicks, and I'm always for sticking it to the man.

Won't make a difference.  Then again, that's what I thought a few weeks ago when the cause of the day was stopping PIPA or SOPA or whatever the fuck that anti-piracy crap was called that had Wikipedia going black for 24 hours (and thus thwarting my "research").  I was, like, Yeah, that's gonna work.  I thought, What a waste of time.  If congress and its big business buddies want this bill passed, they are not going to give a shit about a few cybernerds shaking their skinny British guitar player arms at the screen.  Only they did.  So many people got pissed, such a consolidated effort and opposition staged, that SOPA/PIPA went quietly into the good night.  Leaving Duff McKagen to weep silently...

Maybe I've been selling grassroots short and the art of muckracking isn't dead after all.

I cut myself off from caring about outcomes because there's less room to get hurt that way.  Nothing revolutionary.  People do it all the time.  I think it's one of the governing precepts of Buddhism.  And as a white American who intermittently considers himself Native American when he's suffering a lack of cultural identity, obviously I've dabbled in the religion.  I like dabbling.  Beats full on submersion. Less risk, even less residue.  All sorrow comes from attachment, life is suffering. Sounds like my kind of religion.  But it was missing something.  The guilt.  Which is why I learned to incorporate a little of the Catholicism of my youth to make myself truly miserable.

I don't know what these bastard fucks are doing at Monsanto.  Or where Monsanto is even located.  But I don't want my corn genetically modified.  (Unless it passes on significant savings, allowing me more money to consume shit I don't really need, like a talking monkey butler/robot.)  Mostly I don't like to be bullied.  Nobody does. But this resistance to being pushed around seems to strike a distinctly American chord.  There's a lot about this country that will bug me (Puritan views of sex, etc.), but I always admired the spunk, that scruffy-faced kid part that doesn't take kindly to being told what to do.  It's in those moments where the little guy stands up, takes his hits, and keeps moving forward that I feel part of a something greater than me (it also makes me really want to re-watch Rocky).

The nameless, faceless money-making machines will keep on pushing.  That ain't ever gonna change.  But it's good to know, even if the opponent is a little murky, they can only push so far before we start pushing back.

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